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Content Management: drivers of effectiveness’
Part 2:Tools and technologies to get the job done

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Earlier this year, member-based nonprofit APQC partnered with KMWorld to uncover the truth about content management inside organizations. We wanted to find out which tools and technologies are popular, which trends show the most promise and what successful organizations are doing to pull ahead of the pack.

To find out, we asked 494 professionals how their organizations store, manage and deliver enterprise content. In the July/August issue of KMWorld, we shared survey results related to developing a content strategy and defining roles and responsibilities for managing content. In this article, we review the technology landscape for content management and highlight specific tools and approaches organizations find most effective for connecting people to content.

What kind of content are we talking about?

To understand the survey respondents’ content management practices, we began by asking them about the specific content on which their organizations focus. The technology and processes needed to create, deliver and oversee content repositories can vary widely depending on the type of resources in question. For example, an organization interested in making standards and FAQs available to its work force has very different needs than a firm wanting employees to upload their own videos to a YouTube-style video sharing system. So before we analyzed any data about the respondents’ tools and approaches, we wanted a clear picture of the content their organizations hoped to distribute and share.

The largest proportion of firms concentrate on providing access to rules, guidelines and day-to-day work documents, with 59 percent of respondents citing a focus on standard processes and procedures, and 58 percent on project-specific content. That did not surprise us, because those categories are perhaps the most universally applicable across industries and strategies. No matter what your business model and goals, you probably have standards and regulations everyone needs access to, and your employees probably have files and documents they need to access to do their work.

A smaller proportion of the survey population reported a focus on learning and “how-to” resources such as:

  • tools and templates (47 percent),
  • instructional content (41 percent),
  • examples of past work (39 ?percent), and
  • vetted expertise and best practices (37 percent).

While a healthy proportion of organizations are interested in this type of content, it surprised us that more than half were either somewhat, minimally or not focused on those categories. Instructional content is critical to build employee competencies, and templates and examples make people more efficient by reusing existing knowledge, instead of reinventing the wheel on each new project. Access to vetted expertise and best practices helps organizations standardize and avoid costly errors. While it’s possible that some expertise and how-to resources are provided through separate approaches, the lack of integration is concerning. We find that organizations benefit when they incorporate enterprise content and learning materials into one strategy and offer employees a one-stop shop for those resources.

Relatively few respondents (22 percent) reported that their organizations are significantly or extremely focused on informal, user-generated content such as blogs, wikis and conversation threads. However, another 28 percent said their organizations were somewhat focused on that content, which suggests it might be a growing trend. Conversations we’ve had with leading firms indicate that an increasing number are investigating ways to incorporate informal and unstructured content into their strategies to ensure they maximize the value of conversations and collaboration occurring in different pockets of the work force.

Another emerging trend is the focus on multimedia content, including the use of video for employee communications, instruction and engagement (see Figure 1, Page 6, KMWorld September 2014, Volume 23, Issue 8 or Download Chart). While less than half of respondents currently incorporate video in their content strategies, another 29 percent plan to add that capability in the next two years.

Where and how to store content

Regardless of the specific resources organizations want to distribute, most supply a range of tools and repositories to house enterprise content. According to the survey results, the average firm supports at least two content management applications, with a majority leveraging Microsoft SharePoint for at least part of their content infrastructure (see Figure 2, Page 6, KMWorld September 2014, Volume 23, Issue 8 or Download Chart). Oracle, IBM, EMC, HP and OpenText are all strong players in this field, boasting significant market share among our survey group. Specialized implementations are also popular, as evidenced by the one in four respondents that report using custom software for content management.

To date, cloud-based solutions such as Google Docs represent only a small fraction of the market for corporate content management, but interest in managing content in the cloud appears to be growing. When we asked respondents about cloud storage, 40 percent said their organizations store at least some content in the cloud, and another 29 percent plan to move content into the cloud in the next two years.

Mobile access tools are also entering the corporate mainstream. Nineteen percent of respondents said their organizations provide apps for employees to access enterprise content, and another 36 percent said employees regularly access content from smartphones or tablets without dedicated apps. An additional 28 percent said that while they do not currently provide mobile access to enterprise content, they plan to add that capability in the next two years.

Organizations tend to emphasize choice when it comes to the locations where employees store and access content. Ninety percent of respondents said their firms have project or team spaces for content, 83 percent have central portals, 82 percent have portals for specific business areas and 78 percent provide content through community or network sites. Even wikis, the newest and least ubiquitous content repository on our survey, are in place at 57 percent of organizations.

But how effective are those sites and repositories in terms of providing fast, easy access to resources? The survey results were relatively mixed, with no site jumping out as more effective than another. Central portals received the highest marks from the survey group, with 57 percent of those using central portals rating them as effective or very effective. However, business area portals, project and team spaces, and community/network sites all received similar ratings, with between 51 and 53 percent of users describing them as effective. Wikis were the outlier: A mere 30 percent of those using wikis ranked them as effective, whereas 42 percent classed them as minimally or not effective at providing access to content.

We suspect those differences in effectiveness stem from the level of structure and governance supporting different types of repositories. Central repositories tend to be the most tightly managed, with clear guidelines, roles and responsibilities associated with their upkeep. By contrast, many organizations have slapped wikis onto their intranets without articulating how they will be used, how and when content will be added, or who will be accountable. That laissez-faire attitude tends to result in an unregulated jungle of content, much of which is out of date or relevant only to small slivers of the organization. Wikis can be highly effective content delivery tools, but only if they are governed with the same rigor applied to more formal repositories.

The importance of centralized access

While the survey revealed no hard-and-fast rules about the best repositories for content, some general guidelines regarding storage and retrieval did emerge. For example, one question asked about approaches to connect people to content intended for broad access—so not files associated with specific employees or projects, but more widely applicable resources such as standards, templates and best practices. Twenty-four percent of respondents said their organizations store that content in central repositories, whereas 34 percent said it is housed in multiple locations connected through a central interface or search capability. Forty-two percent said their firms store that content in multiple locations not connected through a central interface or search.

When we compared people’s responses on this question to how they rated the overall effectiveness of their firm’s content management efforts, we noticed a huge disparity between organizations that centralize storage and delivery vs. those that don’t (see Figure 3 on page 6, KMWorld September 2014, Volume 23, Issue 8 or Download Chart. The effectiveness gap between firms with central repositories and those linking separate repositories through a central interface or search was not statistically significant, but both groups far outperformed peers with no centralized access. The message is clear: Whatever combination of repositories an organization uses to house content, employees need a single point of entry so they can easily find and retrieve relevant resources.

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